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Brusnitsyns’ mansion in wait for restoration

20 july 2017

A real gem of the XIX century architecture by no means built in the functionalism style is hidden among the production buildings of the industrial port zone of Vasilievsky Island. Its decaying beauty made an imperishable impression of all eclecticism connoisseurs and history lovers that came for a tour of the Brusnitsyns’ mansion which took place on July 07, 2017 within the frames of the Open City project.

Both the surroundings and the inside premises are striking by their contrasts. Passing through the entrance checkpoint with a metal turnstile, along the corridors typical of some factory of the 80ies, probably, visitors go up to the second floor where through a half-open standard metal door with a door closer they see a multitiered chandelier with crystal pendants hanging from the patterned coffered ceiling made from dark wood.

The historical sideboard in the dining room has survived surprisingly well.

This unexpected combination of the factory ascetics and luxury of the mansion is historically justified: the Brusnitsyns, the owners of the luxurious dwelling being of peasant descent who became merchants, built their house in immediate proximity of the buildings of their tannery to have the possibility of ongoing control of the processes of bovine hides and skins processing. The tannery functioned until the late XX century; then it went bankrupt but during the two centuries of its operation it was regularly rebuilt to adapt to the needs of the production. The mansion underwent especially many changes in the Soviet years. For example, an entrance checkpoint was built on the place of the gate through which visitors get into the mansion (and employees of administrative departments used to go to their workplaces at some time) while the marble staircase still has traces of the barbaric transverse division by wooden boarding: there was one of the employees’ offices on it. At the same time the space above these boards was adapted to accommodate a storeroom: bottles with reagents were placed on the marble steps of the flight.

The former splendor created in the XIX century still survives in some rooms accessible for viewing. The bright Oriental interior of the smoking room has not faded over the long years, and even the glass lamp of the chandelier reminding of an Arabic tobacco bowl still delights the guests.

The rich decoration of the White Hall and the drawing-room made in warm shades is almost as beautiful as it was one hundred years ago, and the lack of restoration works has left its imprint in the form of the tarnished shine of the gilding and the shredding silk of the wall tapestry, but the major accents of the interior are in a relatively good condition: the mantelpiece, huge mirrors and magnificent moulding.

The White Hall for official receptions where friends and partners of the Brusnitsyns used to get together.

Unfortunately, not all the rooms are open for visiting. Part of them are of no interest due to the poor condition or lost historical interior while some of them, as the guide said, were allowed for access even for the organization which carried out inventory of the tannery property in the 90ies. Therefore, there is no complete data about the condition of the mansion so far. This information may be fuelling the rumors about the mysterious mirror of Dracula: the legend has it that it used to be in the office of the tannery director located behind the Golden Drawing Room. This room is boarded up now, as they say, in connection with the mysterious and outright disappearance of the director and one of the employees of the tannery. The mirror is also associated with the enigmatic and timeless death of the granddaughter of Nikolay Mokeevich Brusnitsyn who founded his own production in Kozhevennaya Line. The mirror is also blamed for the constant health problems of the inhabitants of the house probably ignoring the fact that it was not for nothing that Catherine the Great ordered to take tanneries outside the city limits: the chemicals used in such production processes have an extremely acrid «odor» and their vapors are poisonous.

At present the smell of tanned skins has already worn off from the furniture upholstery and is not felt in the corridors of the now bankrupt enterprise. The mansion has been alienated from the former lessee, has been recognized to be a monument of history and architecture of federal significance and is waiting for restoration. The further destiny of the building and its magnificent interiors as well as its past is vague and indeterminate but now we have the possibility to admire the luxurious decoration of the Brusnitsyns’ mansion by enrolling for a tour of the Open City cultural and educational project being implemented with the support of Tricolor TV and leaving a request at открытыйгород.рф website.

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